Products for pros: NZ sports nutrition firm targets elite athletes with comprehensive product range

By Cheryl Tay contact

- Last updated on GMT

PowerAmp Sports' Rapid Hydration drink is an innovative rehydration beverage targeted at athletes such as competitive cyclists, swimmers, and triathletes.
PowerAmp Sports' Rapid Hydration drink is an innovative rehydration beverage targeted at athletes such as competitive cyclists, swimmers, and triathletes.

Related tags: Sports nutrition, New zealand, Beverages

New Zealand sports nutrition firm PowerAmp Sports is aiming to develop a comprehensive product portfolio that is fully approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), starting with their range of hypotonic beverages.

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Kiwi cyclist Hayden Washington-Smith and his long-time friend and former cycling rival, Olly Ng, recently launched PowerAmp Sports' Rapid Hydration drink, an innovative rehydration beverage targeted at athletes such as competitive cyclists, swimmers, and triathletes.

Washington-Smith looks after business development, while Ng is in charge of consumer research and sustainability efforts.

At his behest, Washington-Smith's father, nutritional physiologist Grant, lent his expertise to the development of the product, which took a year and a half to complete.

More sodium, less salty

Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia​, the elder Washington-Smith — who is based in Waikato Innovation Park — said: "Hayden and Olly grew up together and were cycling rivals in high school. They’re now in university, and they had been discussing sports nutrition and the issues associated with it."

After being involved in sports nutrition trial work at Massey University, his son approached him with the idea of developing a sports beverage similar to those he and Olly had tried in the US that were not exported to New Zealand.

The main issue with such beverages, however, was their tendency to taste synthetic or overly salty.

Drawing from his past experience in developing formulations and brands for companies in New Zealand, Washington-Smith decided that a hypotonic beverage would be better than an isotonic one.

The former would entail fewer carbohydrates and less sugar, which would allow for a slightly higher level of sodium. However, he opted not to use sodium chloride in the formulation, so as to keep the drink from tasting salty.

"We used sodium citrate, magnesium citrate, and potassium citrate — citrates would help the drink avoid a salty flavour, even though the usual sodium chloride would have been cheaper."

Rehydration in recovery

Ng and the Washington-Smiths trialled several formulations and flavours in the laboratories at Waikato Innovation Park, receiving positive overall feedback from cyclists and other sportspeople.

They eventually narrowed down the flavours from 12 to three: mango, raspberry lemonade, and pineapple. The drink, which is in a soluble powder format, comes in 400ml pouches, and is available on PowerAmp Sports' website.

Washington-Smith said, "The speed of rehydration plays a massive role in performance. The faster they can replenish their fluids, the faster they can return to their normal performance standard."

Managing misconceptions

Apart from providing a product to aid athletic performance, Washington-Smith is also keen to clear up the common misconceptions people have about sports beverages.

"The great conundrum with sports drinks is that most people think they need something sugary to get their energy levels back up, when in fact, it has quite the opposite effect. Taking too much sugar can actually cause an insulin response that will lead to a blood glucose crash."

Another common misconception is that sports beverages are a waste of money when water is freely available.

Washington-Smith explained that there were two digestive processes whereby merely drinking water would not meet an athlete's needs in terms of performance.

The first is gastric emptying, i.e., the speed at which liquid empties from the stomach into the small intestine. Water alone does not empty quickly, but a very small amount of glucose in the water can accelerate the process.

"Too much glucose can have the opposite effect, but the right amount would open up the pyloric sphincter, leading to more rapid gastric emptying, so fluids don't slosh around inside your stomach and make you feel uncomfortable."

The second — and perhaps more important — process is intestinal absorption of liquid from the gut lining into the body itself, wherein what is termed a 'sodium-glucose transporter' helps to quicken the process.

"This is where the ratios of sodium and glucose are critically important, because the body can then use the sodium-glucose transporter.

"If you just drink water, it would have to passively diffuse into the body, which will happen, but not quickly enough. The transporter opens an active transport gate that actively pulls the liquid through much faster than it would go if it were to diffuse by itself."

From beginning to end

Now that Rapid Hydration is available for sale, PowerAmp Sports is trialling two other beverages to complete the range: Preparation and Recovery, both expected to launch in January 2019.

Preparation is similar to Rapid Hydration, but contains more sodium. It is meant to be taken 12 to 24 hours before a race, to saturate the body with an abundance of minerals and increase its capacity to hold fluids — something water alone cannot do.

Recovery, on the other hand, will have a higher volume of carbohydrates and fibre than Preparation and Rapid Hydration, and will contain BCAAs, which the other two drinks do not have.

Washington-Smith added: "We will also include astaxanthin, which has some good data surrounding its ability to speed up recovery.

"I've also recently been looking into blackcurrant fibre, which contains the same anthocyanins as blackcurrant juice. Given the fact that it has been shown to be quite similar to astaxanthin in terms of speed of muscle recovery, we will consider adding it into the drink as well."

Complete and comprehensive

Continuing to keep high-performance athletes in mind, PowerAmp Sports has other types of sports nutrition products in the pipeline, including turmeric, probiotic and fish oil supplements.

The company also insists on obtaining WADA certification for all its products, so as to ensure they are safe for consumption by professional athletes.

The products will also be vegan- and vegetarian-friendly (except the fish oil supplement), gluten-free, non-GMO, and low-sugar.

In terms of overseas expansion, Washington-Smith said any country where competitive cycling was a prominent sport would be of interest to the firm, including the US, Canada, certain European nations, and Malaysia.

"Malaysia has an outstanding track cycling team, and I'd love to be a part of that process. The only downside is it does take a long while to complete registration in many Asian countries."

He further said that while PowerAmp Sports may consider developing protein powders in future, there was a pressing need in New Zealand for WADA-approved sports supplements.

"Most of the performance teams in New Zealand have to import their products from the UK, which is primarily where our materials are purchased, so we see an opportunity in New Zealand and Australia to have the first comprehensive sports nutrition line, come 2019.

"Our plan is to be the first company in the southern hemisphere to be a have a comprehensive, WADA-approved product range — whether it's for pre-loading, hydration or recovery, daily vitamins for condition-specific applications, or general multivitamins."

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